STEVEN GERRARD is bracing himself for the pressure of having that cup final feeling every few days.
The Rangers boss admits the midweek defeat at Kilmarnock means his team are on the brink of watching their title challenge fade away.
Every league match is now win-or-bust for the Light Blues – starting with today’s tricky trip to face Livingston at the Tony Macaroni Arena.
It’s the venue where Rangers lost 1-0 back in September.
Gerrard was always looking for revenge, but slipping to third place in the table after losing at Rugby Park gives the game added significance.
The suggestion that it’s win-or-bust for the title isn’t something he disagrees with.
The Rangers manager said: “If you have ambitions of winning it, of course.
“Every game you have to go into with a cup final mentality.
“We need to try to put a run of games together where we find more consistency
“We’re on the back of a poor result that’s damaged us. So we need to get back to winning ways.
“We’ve gone from everything being so positive to only playing for 20 minutes in a game. We paid the price for that.
“And if we don’t perform at Livingston, we might pay a further price.”
Rangers haven’t always impressed away from home this season, although Celtic have lost four times on the road compared to Rangers’ three defeats.
Nevertheless, Gerrard knows his men would be closer to the top if they could consistently win away from Ibrox.
He went on: “At times it hasn’t happened for us away from home.
“It’s definitely an area that we’re looking to improve in and be more consistent.
“Mentality is a big part of it. But it’s not just mentality, it’s about quality and not making big errors at important times.
“It has to come from within the group. Players have to take responsibility when we go to these places.
“We know we’re good enough to get results so it’s down to them to carry out the correct game-plan and deliver.
“With experience, you get mentally stronger.
“But there’s enough experience, talent and know-how in this dressing room to go away and get results. I have no doubt about that.”
Rangers captain James Tavernier insisted Rangers have to win every match between now and May to stop Celtic running away with another title.
But Gerrard is keen to stress that not only their Glasgow rivals are involved in this fight at the top of the Premiership.
He said: “I agree with James, the job has become more difficult after Kilmarnock. That’s a fact.
“But we can’t just be obsessed with Celtic.
“Kilmarnock and Aberdeen are there for a reason, so we can’t be obsessed with one challenge.
“We need to worry about ourselves and get our game right. If we’re concerned with others, we’re losing focus.
“But James is right, there has to be a reaction for us to push on. For us to fight all the way, we need a result today.
“I think we have missed certain opportunities to be in a stronger position, without a doubt.
“Wednesday night was one of those, as was Livingston the last time we went there.
“We have had games and performances where I have expected more.
“But, I’m also wise enough to know if we get a positive result this time then we are still within touching distance.
“I’d be stupid if I said I think I expected us to be top and clear right now.”
Gerrard is certainly qualified to talk to his players about coping with the pressure of expectation.
He grew up hearing all about the Liverpool’s trophy-laden history and the 18 league titles that came to Anfield.
Picking up a championship winners’ medal, however, eluded the 38-year-old.
He said: “You have to accept that pressure and the players have to learn.
“But we haven’t got a honeymoon period, where the fans will give us time to compete.
“We are in the now. And we need a reaction.
“At times it was difficult to play under that pressure but that is why Rangers and Liverpool are big, successful clubs, because more often than not they have people that can handle it.
“New players feel that extra pressure when they come in and go to away grounds and see blue all over the stadium.
“That was an eye-opener for me when I came in.
“For a player that has to motivate you even more. There is nothing better for me than having more fans than the opposition.”